Why Learn Another Language?
In the twenty-first century, multilingualism is becoming the norm. It’s estimated that over half the world’s population is at least bilingual and this figure is growing. So where do you fit into this changing world? Do you see yourself as part of a dynamic population of world citizens, or stuck on a shrinking monolingual island? The real question should be: why not learn another language?
If you’re at all curious about the world beyond your own day-to-day routine, speaking Spanish (or any other language besides your native tongue) can upgrade your life by increasing opportunities for career, living, travel, friendship, adventure and love. The more languages you speak, the bigger your world becomes.
And there is absolutely no reason to be discouraged, or to tell yourself you don’t have the talent for it. The idea that only children can become bilingual is simply a myth. You can learn to speak another language no matter your age or educational background; maybe you’ll never be mistaken for a native speaker, but you will be able to communicate – and that is what languages are for. Speaking a language is about connection, not perfection. So let’s ask a new question: who do you want to connect with?
A language is more than a bunch of words and rules for how to put those words together; it is another world. Speaking Spanish gives you access to the world of over 410 million native speakers from Mexico to Argentina to Spain to your own neighbors in the US. In fact, after Mexico, the US has the biggest population of Spanish speakers on Earth (yes, even more than in Spain). That means you can probably make use of the language without even leaving your neighborhood – especially if you live anywhere in the western U.S., Florida, or just about any big city.
Spanish is considered one of the easiest languages for a native English speaker to learn. The grammar and sentence structure are different from English, but simpler. Because both languages have Latin roots, they also share thousands of cognates – words that sound the same and have the same meanings.
Consider this sentence in Spanish – made up almost entirely of Spanish-English cognates: El restaurante antiguo está cerca del museo de arte. The cognates for “restaurant”, “museum” and “art” are almost unchanged. Stretch your brain a bit and you might notice that “cerca” looks a lot like the Latin “circa” and “antiguo” looks like “antique”. Put it all together and you get: The old restaurant is near the art museum.
With Babbel, you can learn Spanish without going to classes, hiring a tutor or investing in expensive software. For an affordable monthly subscription, you have access to hundreds of hours of interactive courses that get you speaking right from the first lesson. Babbel’s integrated speech recognition can even help you improve your pronunciation.
We add new courses on a regular basis so the opportunities to learn and improve are always growing. And if you own an iPhone, Android, or Windows 8 phone the key to speaking Spanish is already in your pocket.
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Having a little Spanish in your conversational repertoire will open up the world to you on multiple levels:
For Business – being bilingual isn’t just good for your resumé, it can change your career. As the third most spoken language on the planet, knowing some Spanish can be extremely advantageous for anyone doing business in Spain or Latin America. South America is a rapidly growing market that will be harder to access if you can’t understand Spanish. Closer to home, many American find a grasp of Spanish useful when interacting with employees or coworkers here in the States.
Traveling – Mexico has a lot more to offer than spring break, but only if you can talk to people in their own language. The same is true in the rest of Central and South America, where monolinguals can easily get stuck in the pre-packaged vacation zones. However, if you get off the tourist track and away from the beach resorts, you can start to seek out the genuine places that foreigners don’t discover.
Living Abroad – When you speak Spanish well enough to travel without a phrasebook in hand, the idea of staying longer in another country can become tempting. Places like Mexico, Costa Rica and Peru offer opportunities for students looking for a semester abroad, professionals looking for some adventure in their working life and retirees drawn by warmer climates and lower prices.
Brain Training – Even if you decide to only learn Spanish as a hobby, knowing multiple languages will keep your brain healthy and nimble, even in old age. This is because knowing another language creates another network of connections among your neurons. The higher your neural interconnectivity, the better your memory and problem-solving skills.
Spanish and Latin-American Culture, Unfiltered – The Spanish-speaking world is responsible for gorgeous (and delicious) arts and culture. Whether you want to understand the lyrics to flamenco classics, learn to dance tango in Buenos Aires, explore Gaudí’s Barcelona or learn how to really cook tacos al pastor, speaking the language will let you participate more directly. Knowing Spanish will also give you unfiltered access to the films of Luis Buñuel and Pedro Almodovar, the literature of Miguel de Cervantes, Gabriel Garcia Marquez and Jorge Luis Borges; and the poetry of Pablo Neruda and Federico García Lorca. And if you are one of the 14 million American Latinos who can’t speak Spanish, learning the language will turn your window onto your heritage into a doorway.
Ways to Learn Spanish
About 90 million people around the world speak Spanish as a second language, which brings the total number of Spanish speakers to 500 million. In the U.S. it is the most-studied foreign language in schools and universities. Not surprisingly, there are many ways to study the language:
In The Classroom
Classroom instruction with a teacher and other students is the most traditional approach to learning a language. Many Americans have already learned some Spanish this way in high school, although often not with the best results. Many people who are motivated to become fluent find that classes offer a good balance between language instruction and chance to listen and speak.
Learning one-on-one with a tutor allows for a completely tailored learning experience and more opportunities to practice speaking. Compared to a classroom where the teacher has to split attention among dozens of pupils, private tutoring usually yields quicker results. However, private tutoring doesn’t come cheap and you’ll need to be prepared to pay a high hourly rate for an experienced tutor.
Audio Courses and CD-roms
For people with money to burn on learning a language, but not enough time to commit to traditional methods, multimedia courses are a good alternative – whether you practice listening and speaking with CDs in the car, or use interactive courses on your home PC in your free time. The main drawback to these methods is high up-front cost and material that can quickly become outdated.
Online Spanish Courses
Online learning has made immense progress in the past several years and has become a viable alternative to more traditional forms of instruction. It’s becoming the norm for people with very little time or money to spare who still want to make progress with their learning. Compared to the above method, subscription-based online programs are always updating, improving and adding courses that don’t require buying a new module.
To Pay Or Not To Pay?
What do the methods mentioned above have in common? They all cost money. For thrifty folks who have a little more patience and motivation than the average learner, there are ways to learn Spanish for free:
Tandem learning is a technique where two people who want to learn each other’s languages take turns as teacher and as student. For example: if you meet for two hours, you can speak in Spanish for one hour and then switch to English for the next hour so that you both get some practice. But be aware, just because someone is a native speaker does not mean they are a good teacher. This can still be a good option once you already know some Spanish and just want to practice, but you must be prepared to teach your counterpart English. Tandems are free for both parties, but a significant time commitment.
OK, so it’s only free if you don’t count the airfare or room and board, but nothing helps you become fluent like living in a Spanish-speaking country. But immersion is no magic bullet. If you haven’t arrived with at least some knowledge of Spanish vocabulary and grammar, passive listening will not be easy and will not make you fluent without further study. Before taking the big plunge, you can simulate immersion by listening to Spanish radio, watching Spanish TV and movies and doing multimedia lessons online.
If you are a real self-starter then you don’t need more than a Spanish grammar book, dictionary and some vocab books to get started with Spanish. Books could get you reading Spanish after lots of studying, but won’t help with listening comprehension or speaking.
Free Online Courses and Mobile Apps
There are hundreds of ways to learn Spanish for free on the web. From Spanish grammar wikis to online courses, there’s no shortage of information out there, but it’s often presented in a cluttered and inconsistent way that’s harder to read than a grammar book.
Some websites offer free interactive learning material, like Duolingo and Memrise, but programs like these focus on writing and reading at the expense of listening and speaking. They also rely heavily on user-generated content, which means the quality is inconsistent and the accuracy of the information goes unverified. It’s possible to learn Spanish online for free, but be prepared to deal with language lessons that are dull, inflexible, too basic, poorly designed, or else littered with ads.
Learning Spanish with Babbel
Learning with Babbel costs you less per month than your morning coffee, is ad-free and has been made by a team of language experts, educators and designers – so you are guaranteed a top-quality learning experience for the best value.
Here at Babbel we believe that the key to effectively learning Spanish, or any language, is having fun. Commitment and discipline will always be important factors, but real engagement is what helps you to retain information and maximize your learning potential. Here’s what you can expect from Babbel’s online Spanish program:
Covers all four aspects of language acquisition – listening, reading, writing and speaking – with fully interactive multimedia lessons. The speech recognition feature even helps you improve your pronunciation.
iOS and Android apps are fully integrated with the web application. Your progress is saved in the cloud and synced across all devices – so you can learn anytime, anywhere.
Set your own pace and learn what’s relevant to you with courses organized by topic and theme.
Regular course updates and new lessons so you always have access to the freshest, most up-to-date material.
The Babbel Community lets you connect with other users so you can practice your Spanish with native speakers or other learners.
All the material you cover is stored in your Review Manager where you can continue to practice and improve on what you’ve learned, even if you decide not continue with a paid subscription.
Don’t like the service? We offer a 20 day money-back guarantee – no questions asked.
Try a free Spanish lesson with Babbel and see for yourself just how enjoyable learning can be.